Virtual Reality Dying Experiences

Working on Your Relationship with Mortality

Tom Nickel
4 min readApr 9, 2022


Morda, in Horizon Worlds, by rcdegs

Some people don’t like to talk about death and will go the great lengths to avoid it.

Other people have death in their thought stream and wouldn’t mind talking about it if they could, but it’s never-the-right-time.

Especially now, with death so high profile, so in our face — if we had death anxiety drop-in centers, they’d be well-attended.

The open space that my friend Ryan and I have hosted every week for two years is something like that. It’s a live event with nothing planned. It consists only of what people bring. If no one feels like talking about death, nothing happens.

But something always does happen. I don’t know why but there are always about 25–35 participants. There are always about 5–6 people who speak in depth about something they’re thinking or feeling. Whether it is from other participants, or through the way Ryan and I speak with the guests at our sessions — they always go away feeling that at least someone heard them.

Virtual Reality itself, the immersive spatial media environment where our events take place, is probably the biggest factor in helping people talk about difficult topics they didn’t think they ever could. The risk is dramatically reduced when the people listening with interest and respect are not connected to our life in the physical world.

People are more willing to try things when it’s virtual. That’s a broad assertion. I now know for sure, directly, that some people are more willing to try things when it’s virtual, because we often hear them say, ‘I can’t belief I’m talking about this,’ while they’re talking about it.

Death as an Experience

If some people are more willing to talk about death in VR, maybe they will be more willing to try it out as an experience.

We take a broad view of death. Yes, the end of the physical body is a death, but we also emphasize all the other deaths we live through. Death of who we used to be, at so many points in our life span. Death of businesses, homes, friendships. Nothing endures.

Impermanence is easy to swallow in the abstract, much tougher to accept Right Now.

What we select as VR Dying Experiences (VRDEs) is way of getting used to the idea, a step at a time, but without holding back. Every step into mortality comes pre-charged.

Now we are offering our first set of VR Dying Experiences, a sequence of four that people may find increasingly intimate and challenging. A headset is the only price of admission. I welcome you to join us.

We will conduct events in both AltspaceVR and Horizon Worlds, two different social VR apps, two different approaches to building a Metaverse platform.

  1. Other People Dying features introductions, cemeteries and obituaries. There is an overview, check-ins, cemeteries from all over the world, and guided goodbyes.
  2. Death & Culture Game Show draws on everything from religion to movies to Near Death Experiences and turns it into an Avatar Squares Quiz that feels like a tv show; mortality infotainment.
  3. Way To Go is about doing things to create a sense of complete-enough. Visit memory worlds, imagine rituals for regrets and practice letting go with us
  4. The End brings up some of the choices we might have about our exit, about steps to prolong life or approaches to hasten the end. We will dramatize these choices together.

To accompany the Experiences, there will also be Meditations, supporting the progression of themes every week in both social VR location at different times.

Sixteen events altogether, two social VR apps, over four weeks. There will be a private Discord channel. This distributed approach, with order but also open access, might be a way to organize a new kind of simulated-experience-learning. Not just a single workshop but a progression of active events, events people build together within a framework that touches mortality from many directions.

image by David Denton

The first session of Virtual Reality Dying Experiences is Wednesday, April 20, 2022 in AltspaceVR. Please contact me here if you have any questions.

I write about VR and other topics I have no standing to write about on Medium and Substack.

I have a black belt in learning and I’ve been meditating for so long you’d think I’d be enlightened but I’m not.



Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos